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Adrian Ramsay Design House | Profile Magazine

Adrian Ramsay Design House | Profile Magazine

He is an international fashion designer boasting an impressive clientele. He is an innovative and highly sought-after problem solver. He is an award-winning and wildly talented designer of homes.
He is Adrian Ramsay.

“I always had this fascination with architecture as a little kid,” Adrian Ramsay says, adjusting his round-eyed specs.
“I’m dyslexic, so when I was really young I used to read Western novels and they engaged me, I would sit and sketch the towns and buildings they described and then I would make cardboard models out of them.”

Little did 10-year-old Adrian know  he would go on to sketch and design grand master homes as a living – and be really great at it too.

But we’ll get to that part of the story later.

Adrian’s other passion was fashion, but growing up opposite a chook farm in a rural town near Wellington, New Zealand, there weren’t exactly an abundance of outlets from which he could express his creativity. So he conjured up an opportunity at his local high school.

“I started making formal trousers for the kids because they would be too skinny or too tall and couldn’t find any formal trousers, so I’d say give me your favourite pair of jeans, I’ll make a pattern off it and I’ll sew you up black formal trousers and then I’d make waistcoats as well because they were all the trend, and I’d sell them to them. So I had this little micro business going at school,” Adrian chuffs.

Possessing an innate understanding of analytics, Adrian learnt to sew by looking at garments and figuring out how they were constructed, and then studying a sewing machine to understand how it worked. It’s an ability which has served him well throughout his entire multi-faceted career.

After finishing school, Adrian went on to work in television production, but yearned to study fashion design or architecture. Unfortunately the latter required a level of mathematics that he says was beyond his capabilities.

“I then looked at what you got to do as a clothing designer and they all got to get on aeroplanes and travel and I wanted to do that, my family never travelled. I wanted to see the world and I saw it as a way of escaping to see it,” he says.

To build on his self-taught and natural ability with the sewing machine, Adrian completed a pattern-making course and began applying for jobs. Within a couple of years he was working as assistant designer for the number one swimwear brand in New Zealand. From there Adrian went to work in London where he designed for various brands including Wallis, H&M, Topshop, and Marks and

Spencer, then went to work in South Africa, before returning to London.

“By then I’d cemented enough talent to be useful to someone and when I got back to New Zealand it was the late ‘80s, during the last big GFC, and there were no jobs, the whole economy had crashed,” he says.

“I set myself up as a freelance designer because I had all of this knowledge from London and America, so I drew all of these story boards up and started presenting them to fashion companies.

“From that I landed various contracts and running design for a company called Pazazz and we took it from a couple of hundred thousand-dollar company to over three million in four years.”

Over the years, Adrian’s extensive travelling enabled him to not only accumulate knowledge in trends and design, but also grasp the analytics of how everything fits within a global market. This made him a highly valuable freelance designer and ultimately lead to him becoming a specialist in women’s swimwear.

“One of the things I introduced in the swimwear realm of things in New Zealand was the deconstructing of bras and saying, ‘Why would a woman take off her bra, to then put on something that won’t work and still expect it to work?’ We really got into the rigid construction of swimwear tops as opposed to just stretch.”

Not long after, Adrian was head-hunted by Canterbury of New Zealand, which was a division of the biggest clothing company in the country and the rugby union brand of the world, with clients including the All Blacks and Australian Wallabies.

He was employed to restructure the design of the $19 million New Zealand company and over the subsequent years, he and his team increased their profit margin and went on to head up design for Canterbury International, setting up a European design headquarters.

While working for the company, Adrian met his now-wife Rebecca, who worked in product management for Canterbury in their Brisbane office.

Despite having only been on one date, Adrian asked her to move to the UK with him, and they spent a year based in Manchester, sojourning to Italy and France. In 2000, they moved to the Sunshine Coast.

“We spent three months researching the property market and bought a house in Buderim and I would drive to work one day a week and work from home the rest of the week; still running teams in New Zealand and offshore,” Adrian says.

“We bought our first home which was a big dump and an amazing opportunity, and my buddy and I did it up. I’d been designing houses in New Zealand and England while I was still doing fashion – designing my own flips as well as designing my friends’ houses.

“When we did this one in Buderim we were aiming to sell it for $1 million, only one house had ever sold for $1 million in Buderim at that point. We didn’t get there we got $980,000, out of a house we paid $325,000 for and spent $200,000 on.”

Over the next couple of years, Adrian and his mate bought six other homes to renovate and redesign, and also collected a lot of work from friends.

Identifying a niche in the market, and a potential business opportunity, Adrian aligned with the best in the business, creating a mastery of people around him, to develop and sharpen his skill set.

In 2007, he formalised his business with Adrian Ramsay Design House and has gone on to complete over 100 different home design projects throughout Australia, England, France, New Zealand and India, designing projects with build costs ranging from $20,000 to $2 million.

“I still travel every year, last year I went to the States, to Miami and the Florida Keys. They have a very similar climate to what we have, almost identical,” he said.

“Then I went to Austin, Texas which has a similar climate to Toowoomba and our Hinterland … it is really interesting to see what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. There is also a lot of money there, so you get a lot of quality in that area.

“And I went down to the south coast of California, in Newport Beach – it’s very lifestyle orientated which is closer to us, but their weather is more desert-like.”

Back home, Adrian is active in his local community, and while he was a member of the Buderim Chamber of Commerce, he designed the entry signs into town, which still stand today. Adrian is also actively involved with the Montessori School in Forest Glen, where his daughters Paris, aged 13 and Coco, aged six, attend.

The Ramsay family home is a restored “shack” from the early 1970s, which is decorated with antique pieces, some 800 years old, that Adrian and Rebecca collected in England. They also have an eclectic artwork collection with modern pieces complementing fine art landscapes, which Adrian’s father, who is a master watercolour artist, created.

“When you’re in your own home you don’t see it, things are half done and there are walls that are not quite finished because we’re always in the middle of renovating, but people walk into our house and comment on the way it makes them feel and I love that,” Rebecca says.

Originally published in Profile Magazine

Photo: Paula Brennan

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